The banging on the door made Justin jump, so that the charcoal he held skipped the paper, across a drawing that was forming itself into curtains, turning a gentle rounding with the incoming breeze into a slashing scar. “Shit!” he exclaimed. His attempt to use the soft medium had actually seemed to be working well, and he loved working in curves. Curving sweeps didn’t bother his hand so much, straight slashes did (go figure), and not a second before, the image was forming so that the curtains on the page were looking soft, floating, as if the wind were really in them. And then the knock, loud through the quiet, a jump in all of his nerves, and a slashing line in the middle of the paper. And the wind-swelled charcoal imagery turned into just a white and black mess of a ruined project. Thank god he hadn’t been working on it too long.
“Shit, shit, shit,” Justin muttered as he walked across the loft to open the door. This damn well better not be Michael. Or maybe it should be, then he could take out his frustration. He and Michael seemed to be settling into a weird sibling-type rivalry. Mostly, they got along. A lot of times they didn’t, but they seemed to actually acknowledge that without much rancor. Or, Michael didn’t take as many shots at him, and Justin didn’t just ignore Michael so much anymore.
But it wasn’t Michael, he saw, as soon as he pulled open the door.
“Come on in Claire,” he said, standing aside to let her walk in.
She didn’t, just stood there and eyed him through red-rimmed eyes. “I’m looking for Brian. Is he here?”
“Should be on his way…” Justin suggested, holding the door as he gestured she come in.
She moved in carefully, never looking away. He slid the door shut and walked over to the kitchen to wash his hands.
“I’m sorry, this is still my brother’s loft, isn’t it? Brian Kinney?” She stood, slouching, staring at him.
Justin dried his hands on a paper towel, and threw it out before turning back around. “Yup, it sure is. You don’t remember me, do you?”
She stared at him. “Vaguely…” Then her eyes widened. “The bracelet.” If possible, her face went redder, hiding the blotches as the crimson spread to cover the pale splotches beneath her eyes, across the skin of her neck.
Justin shrugged. “It was a while ago. Can I get you something to drink?”
“Yeah, I suppose my brother has whiskey. Is that what you drink when your mom dies?” And she burst out crying.
Oh, shit. Justin stared at her, not too well versed in dealing with hysterical women. Then what she’d said sunk in. Well. Shit again. Brian’s mom was dead.
He took out a glass, and then reached to the cabinet where they kept the spare bottle, and poured her a shot, neat. “Here,” he said, pushing the glass across the counter.
“Thanks…” She gulped it, gestured for more.
He poured, and said, “I’m sorry, Claire.”
“Why should you be sorry? She’s not your mother. You didn’t know her.” She glared at him, then burst into tears again.
“I’m sorry you’re dealing with such a loss,” Justin clarified, struck yet again, as he was every time he dealt with Brian’s family, at the levels of caution these people required. It was like walking through a minefield.
“Yeah, well,” Claire returned. “What’s your name again?”
“I guess my mom didn’t know about you.”
“Not really,” Justin evaded. He wasn’t going to tell Claire that he’d sort of been responsible for outing Brian to his mother. So he had officially met her, for about 10 shocked seconds. But he hadn’t lied; Joan knew nothing of Brian’s relationship with him. She hadn’t wanted to know.
There was an awkward silence, as Claire swirled the liquid in her glass.
“How’s John doing?” Justin asked. He hoped the kid had clued in. A long shot, but nonetheless…
Claire snorted. “What do you care?” She took another sip, not looking at him.
“Why don’t I try to find out where Brian is?” Justin cautiously stepped backward, keeping an eye on her and getting some distance before turning his back. He moved across the loft toward the his cell phone, next to his easel at the far end of the room.
Claire called after him, “Knowing him, he’s probably off having fun. Try the baths. He wasn’t at Vanguard, I tried there. Apparently he doesn’t work there anymore. Oh, I’m sorry, you do know all this, don’t you?” She sure as hell didn’t sound sorry.
Justin bit his lower lip, picked up his phone and hit the speed dial. He couldn’t resist, watching her face as he bit off, “Yeah, Claire, I probably know a lot more about my partner than you do.” Her shocked expression as she finally turned her gaze onto him with that piece of news almost made him smile. Almost. He actually already regretted giving her any information about him and Brian.
“I’ve had a for shit day, you better be naked and waiting,” Brian greeted him, his voice laced with static. The connection at Kinnetik was clear; Justin assumed he was driving, and not at Woody’s. Or elsewhere. What a bitch, he didn’t need to have the idea that Brian was at the baths planted into his imagination right now. Not that it really mattered, but still.
“Sorry your day’s rotten, and I’m even sorrier I’m not going to make it any better …”
“Where are you? I’m pulling into the parking garage, but I can get to where your ass is, just tell me.”
Again, Justin was reminded of how other people sucked, reminded to remind himself not to let anyone else influence his feelings, especially where Brian was concerned. Brian wasn’t at the baths. He didn’t go much anymore, if at all, anyway. But once people had an idea of who you were, who you could be, SHOULD be, in their minds, often they held on with teeth. Especially those with marked insecurities.
“I’m at the loft,” he told Brian. “And so is Claire.”
Silence. Then, “Fuck. What does she want?”
“Just come home.”
“Can’t you just tell me?”
Justin heard the car door slam over the phone line. He glanced over at Claire, whose back was to him as she sat herself on one of the stools at the kitchen counter, and reached for the whiskey. He dropped his voice. “Uh… I’m afraid she set me off just a little…”
“What, you tell her we were married?”
Frightening how close Brian came to the mark. Of course, he figured way into the extreme, but was right along the right lines. “Just used the ‘partner’ word.”
“Should have told her we were married, piss her off that her fucked up brother’s queer relationship would last longer than her husband did.”
Oh, well hell, Brian was in a good mood. Damn it, didn’t Mrs. Kinney have to ruin things even from beyond the grave. A final manipulative twist.
“I’m on my way up, give me 30 seconds.” And he hung up.
“Brian’s on the way,” Justin called to Claire, and she nodded but didn’t turn around.
After a very awkward couple of minutes, during which Justin slowly took the sheet off of the easel and crumpled it up thoroughly, replacing it with a clean piece of paper, the door slid open and Brian entered. He glanced over at his sister, and dropped his briefcase, then shrugged his jacket off. “Claire,” he said to his sister, as she turned to him. He cocked an eyebrow, seeing her bloodshot eyes. “What, did your demon spawn pick on the wrong man this time? Let me guess, you need bail money.” He moved into the loft, slammed the door shut, and shrugged his jacket off his shoulders. He looked over at Justin, who was hovering in place, not quite sure what to do. “Hey,” Brian nodded. “No need to be coy just because we have company, get your ass over here.”
“Brian…” Justin moved across the space, not sure Brian’s obvious desire to bug the shit out of his sister was something he should participate in. “Let me take that for you.” He reached for Brian’s jacket, but Brian grabbed him by the waist and that mouth that Justin marveled at every time it touched his own, captured his lower lip in a searing connection, the tip of his tongue reaching out to run along sensitive flesh that tingled in response. He bit back a moan and commanded his dick down (lot of good that did!), then reached up with a hand and pushed against Brian’s chest, moving him off.
Justin couldn’t help but smile slightly, accompanying that with an eye roll to which Brian responded by twitching his eyebrows briefly upward. They both turned to look at Claire, who was turning redder than she already was, glaring at them. “Brian, can you cut it out? Mom’s dead.” And then, again, she sobbed, bit it back. “Mom’s dead.”
Brian froze, and Justin felt his hand tighten on his waist. He gently took the jacket, and tried to disengage himself to go hang it up in the closet. But Brian held him firmly in place, against his side, and stared at his sister. “What, did she fall down drunk and hit her head?”
Claire abruptly stopped sobbing and gaped at him. “Who told you?”
Brian laughed, humorlessly. “Oh, that’s just great. Have another drink, Claire. Better yet, give me one.” He released his jacket to Justin’s care, and moved into the kitchen to grab himself a glass and pour a healthy shot, which he downed. Justin sighed, and moved away.
“Why didn’t you just call me?”
“Is it something you’d want to hear on the phone?” Claire answered. She sighed. “We have to talk about this, I didn’t want to take the risk you’d hang up on me. Or not even listen to me past my voice.”
“Yeah, well, if Justin hadn’t been here, you wouldn’t even be let in the door. You should be grateful my partner’s much better mannered than I.” He lifted his gaze, instinctively searching out Justin’s form.
“You can’t blame me for trying to protect my son…”
“Can’t I!?” Brian slammed the glass back down. “You didn’t even ask me what the fuck happened, you just assumed…”
“Can you blame me? Your *partner* is little more than a child himself…”
“I’m 21,” Justin replied, coming down the stairs from the bedroom. “Do you want some privacy?” This last was not directed at Claire. Fuck what she wanted.
“God no,” Brian replied, staring at his sister. “I want you to come over here.” Justin moved over, uncertain. Claire glanced away, embarrassed by her remark, on being confronted by the man she had just insulted. “Claire, this is Justin. Justin, this is Claire.”
“Not officially. You have this tendency, dear sister, in the grand Kinney style, to delusion yourself with your own fucked up view of everything. Say hello, he’s the closest thing to a brother-in-law you’ll have. So it’s a wash, basically, lose one relation, gain another.”
“Only you,” Claire answered, her voice low and deadly, sounding in this moment terribly and horridly like her mother, “could make a joke at a time like this.”
Brian raised his eyebrow, not noticing that Justin’s eyes had widened with his last pronouncement. Justin so did not want Claire to consider him a relation. He knew Brian only said it to piss her off, and he certainly wasn’t going to bring the point up now. But hell, he hadn’t been around Brian all this time without learning a thing or two, and he mentally filed the comment away.
“Who said it was a joke?” Brian replied. He shrugged it off, then, and continued, “So, she’s dead. Not a lot I can do about it.”
“There is so things you can do. You think I’m planning the funeral alone? It’s bad enough I had to go identify the body at the hospital not two hours ago…” She stopped mid-stream, and started to hyperventilate. Justin moved to the sink, filled a glass with water, and returned to hand it to her. She grabbed the glass and gulped at it.
“Oh, for fuck’s sake, you just want me to pay for it.” Brian stared at her, wishing Justin had just let her pass out, given him a break for a couple of minutes.
“Can you? I called Vanguard, what, you lose your job?”
Justin moved away, and leaned back against the far counter in the sink, studying the tension in Brian’s back. For sure, Justin had had his own family issues, but the venom here was simply… sad. He moved forward, put his hand on Brian’s waist, felt him relax slightly. “Mother didn’t tell you then?” Brian asked, moving his hand below the counter surface where Claire couldn’t see, and cupping his palm around Justin’s left ass cheek, pressing his fingertips into his flank. Claire just stared, waiting. “I opened my own advertising company,” Brian said, and while the edge of anger was still there, Justin heard the pride there as well. Buried, protected, deep down. But there nonetheless.
Claire snorted. “What do you advertise, sex shops? Bet that’s a smash.” Derision dripped scorn in every word.
“Why don’t we get to the point,” Justin intervened, feeling the sudden complete stillness in Brian’s body where it came in contact with his own, and feeling a sudden ache blossom within himself. He knew exactly the nerve Claire had struck in her brother, and Justin’s anger over her insulting him was swept aside in the face of a much more painful sadness. “Claire, have you contacted a funeral home? That’s the first step, isn’t it?”
“So you see,” Brian said quietly, after a long pause in which the silence filled the spaces between them, “the *child* is the most adult person here.”
Claire reluctantly looked up from the spot on the counter she had been staring at intently, looking up at Justin. “No, I haven’t.”
“Where is… your mom?”
Brian’s hand shifted higher, clenching Justin’s hip. He seemed content to let Justin deal with Claire.
“Okay, why doesn’t Brian handle contacting the funeral home, and you can handle contacting your relatives. And then you can call him tomorrow morning, so you can meet to go to the funeral home together.”
Claire seemed much calmer, now that someone had taken charge. “I’ll contact Father Tom, Mom loved him, she’d want him to perform the service. And he can make arrangements with the church.”
Justin sighed. Thank god, they seemed to have exited the minefield.
“You all set, then?” Brian spoke up, releasing Justin, and moving to slide open the door, not so subtly commanding she go. Claire stood, slightly wobbly.
“You want me to call a cab?” Justin asked.
“No, I have my car,” Claire answered. “I only had two drinks.”
That’s just great, Brian thought, wondering how large the drinks were. And how many she’d had before she got to his place. At this point, though, he didn’t give a shit. He just wanted her out.
As she left, before Brian could shut the door, Claire turned around, offering a parting shot. “I hope you have more respect than you did at Daddy’s funeral. And if you have any respect for the dead, you’ll come by yourself.”
Brian slammed the loft door shut. Then he leaned up against it, resting his forehead against its cool surface.
Justin leaned on his arms, against the bar’s surface. “*Are* you going to go to the funeral?”
“What, after I undoubtedly pay for it?”
“Why subject yourself to anymore of that shit?”
Brian turned around, leaned his back against the door, and studied the concern in Justin’s face. “If your Dad died, would you go to his funeral?”
Justin was silent for a long moment, but then he said, “I’d go. To support Molly and my mom.”
“What if they couldn’t be there? Total hypothetical, just go with it, what if?’
Justin compressed his lips. He knew his answer wouldn’t change.
Brian read the affirmative answer in his eyes. “Why? Even though I’d be telling you to forget him, put it behind you. Move on, don’t look back.”
Justin looked away. “He’s my father. I wouldn’t be mourning his hatred of me, I’d be mourning what I’d lost. I guess that deserves to be marked, one last time. There’s like a black hole in me where that relationship is supposed to be.”
“And even the great Brian Kinney can’t fill it?” Brian’s voice was mocking.
Justin moved over, placed his hand on Brian’s chest. “If anyone could fill it, it would be you. But it doesn’t work that way. So okay, I get it.” He took Brian’s hand, led him across the room to the futon in the sitting area, lay him down, took off his shoes and socks, and then stretched out next to him, propping himself up on his elbow, looking down at Brian’s face. The other man was staring up at the ceiling. He did not have long to wait for Brian to continue with the point he didn’t really have to make. But Brian surprised him, adding information he hadn’t considered.
“Good choice of words, Mr. brilliant Artiste. I wanted someone to fill that black hole. When I was fourteen, there was Michael and his Mom. It’s taken me a long, long time to figure out what you already know. No one can really fill the void left when you don’t get your needs met in the beginning. Doesn’t work that way. You miss out on a good childhood, the vacuum always sucks.” He turned his head to face Justin, their eyes, mouths, inches apart. He could feel the younger man’s breath on his skin, the piercing blue trying to stare into the heart that felt it had cracked open, just a little, for just a minute.
“But you can build up other relationships, so the initial loss doesn’t hurt so much.”
Brian smiled, rolled over on top of him, then relaxed, and just lay there. He buried his head in Justin’s neck. Not seeing his words received made talking easier. “More likely, other relationships get sucked into the great blackness. Michael did. I’ve been a real shit to him over the years.”
Brian shook his head, his cheek causing Justin’s flesh to prickle, in a good way. “Yeah, I was, and Debbie knew, all along. She knew exactly what was going on there, she’s pretty smart.”
“She loves you. We all do.”
Brian didn’t reply, merely swept his lips against the side of Justin’s neck. Justin began to feel the blood surge through his veins, a slow but strong surge. Good god, what this man did to him. He was supposed to be providing comfort, and all his body could think about was sex. He tried to focus back on Brian’s words, despite Brian’s left foot moving against his ankle, a thigh flexing against his groin. Brian seemed to be attempting to actually talk, but his body instinctively moved to stop all conversation. Justin had no idea which signal to respond to. This was fucking ridiculous. He started laughing.
Brian raised himself on his elbows. As his torso lifted, his groin pressed into Justin’s stomach, his growing erection digging into the flesh. “What’s funny?”
“I think your body is trying to outsmart your honest-to-god attempt to communicate with me,” Justin moaned in reply. “You are a living, breathing self-contradiction.”
Brian smirked. “Great. I don’t even need to try. You see the crap I put people through?”
“You sure didn’t put Michael or Debbie through this…” Justin placed his hand on Brian’s side, held his body in place as he pushed his stiff cock up between Brian’s legs. The soft material of his sweat pants pushed back against him, but he was able to rub himself against the soft cotton, even as Brian’s strong thighs closed around him. He moaned, low in his chest.
“No, much worse, continual delay of gratification of any sort.” Brian brought his hand against Justin’s rib cage, holding him down, Justin’s erection held still.
“Greedy little thing, aren’t you?” He was teasing, and again, Justin didn’t know what he should do to best respond. He knew what his body was urging.
“You’re distracting yourself,” Justin pointed out. “And you’re trying to distract me.”
“I’d say it’s working,” Brian replied, leaning down and catching Justin’s full lips in his own. He didn’t move any other part of his body, and Justin could feel a pulse throb through the tip of his dick, surging desire to weep from the head. He pulled his mouth away. “Brian…”
“Justin…” Brian leaned down, leading with his tongue, and just licked at Justin’s top lip, stroking the tip across the very red expanse, moving to the corner of Justin’s mouth, caressing the sensitive edges, but never quite dipping in. Justin received Brian’s tongue passively, his breath coming in short, shallow pants. He felt Brian’s penis slowly growing to its full size, hard against his stomach. Then the weight was off him, and Brian bent down over Justin’s body, his hands slipping the sweat pants off, down Justin’s legs. Their eyes stayed open, on each other’s faces, as Brian reached under the couch to retrieve the supply box. He pulled the zipper of his pants down, rocked back on his ankles, spread Justin’s legs, lifted the ankles over his shoulders, preparing Justin and himself. The fine silk of Brian’s Armani shirt whispered under Justin’s Achilles tendons, and for a moment he had a flash of them from a distance, Brian in full dress, his cock jutting outward, moving into the lubricated opening at the apex of Justin’s exposed lower half. Then Brian pushing in, his weight settling down, the familiar, so familiar feeling of stretch as he took Brian against the back of his legs, and into his body, the silk of the Armani shirt which Justin reached up to unbutton, even as Brian leaned forward, settling downward, his forearms cradling the sides of Justin’s head, his eyes closing, and Justin knew he was retreating, retreating, away from the inner core he had allowed to be exposed for just a brief moment. Justin pushed the shirt aside, pushing it back so that his cock rubbed now against the skin of Brian’s torso, equally silky; he knew that cum on this shirt would not be appreciated when brain matter took over once again. Brian stopped, his cock firmly ensconced, expanding, filling Justin’s body, forearms around Justin’s head, weight resting on Justin’s thighs, their stomachs pressed up against each other. So familiar, this experience so familiar it was like a physical location, at home in each other. Justin stared up into Brian’s face, at the swollen, lush lips, the closed eyes, the nostrils on the fine nose the only mobile feature as they expanded as breath was drawn in, exploded out. He could feel Brian’s chest move more rapidly against his as their breathing picked up, the pulse of blood swelling and retreating beneath the skin with the tide of sex within them, even as Brian held his limbs utterly still, but pushed, so slightly, firmly, forward, back. Justin felt his penis slide against skin as he responded to the ebb and flow, and with the slight press of the organ within him, the pressure against the outer ring, his breath quickened to shallow pants, he was unable to endure the delay, his cock twitching, his thigh muscles involuntarily flexing.
Brian’s hand moved down, settled on his hip bone, holding him still, even as he rocked forward. “Sh…”
“Oh, my god, Brian…” Justin moaned, as he felt Brian’s cock swell as it pulled back, then pressed harder down to completely fill him. Justin’s hamstrings flexed automatically, his toes curling, a fine trembling racing over him and pushing the sensation up to gather at the spot at the bottom of his groin as he lost control of his body’s responses, the orgasm taking him, and he came hard, shooting cum up against Brian’s torso, against his own chest. Brian settled onto his body, riding the waves of the throbbing muscles that clenched around him, and he came down for a final hard push against Justin who had gripped against him, seeking to be filled, just before teeth clamped onto the muscle at the base of Justin’s neck, hard enough to break skin, low moans muffled, lower bodies pressed together, Brian climax ripped through him so that his stomach and groin drew up and his torso bowed upward, groin pressed hard against Justin’s lower body, mouth firmly attached at his shoulder, the rest of him swept off the other man by the force of the sexual explosion sweeping through him, breath stopped, cum shooting out of his body, holding him there, frozen in its grasp. Then the spasms of aftershocks, fast and hard, slowing as he released Justin’s shoulder from his bite, drew in a long, ragged breath, and collapsed, exhaling slowly. Justin dropped his legs, moving them around his lover’s hips. Brian licked at the puncture marks that indented the skin underneath his lips, then rested his cheek on Justin’s chest, his thumb caressing the sore spot. “You okay?” he asked.
“That was fucking amazing,” Justin replied, not answering the question, silly as it was. Brian rested for a moment, before pulling out and rolling off, and Justin stretched, and pulled off his shirt. They lay there a while, idly touching, quiet.
The silence broke with Justin’s question. “You sure? I mean, going to the funeral. You sure you want to do that?”
“What, and miss seeing that cunt buried deep, shut up for all eternity? You kidding?”
“Well, okay,” Justin answered, rising to his feet. “If there’s anything I can do…”
“Actually, there is.”
Justin paused on his way to the shower, not having expected that. He looked back. Brian raised one eyebrow, and continued, “You ARE planning to stand by your grieving partner on his most difficult day?” His tongue poked into his cheek, and Justin stared, not having expected that question.
But the look told him all he needed to know. “And if said partner’s support happens to completely appall and discomfit the entire family and friends of the dead woman…”
“Grief is obviously not allowing the poor orphan boy to think straight,” Brian answered, pulling off his shirt, and shucking his pants. “Shall we?” he asked, gesturing to the shower.
Justin rolled his eyes. “Even though your sister said, if you had any respect for the dead, you’d leave me out of it?”
“Huh,” Brian responded, shoving him in front of him, tossing his clothes on the bed, “I do hope she remembers that comment when we show up.”
He woke up, emerging from sleep as if from a cocoon, burrowed somewhere in the warmth of the sheets, the pillow cradling the crown of his head. He opened his eyes, slowly. Something was wrong.
It was early; he could tell, earlier than he usually awoke. The light was thin, delicate. The sun might not even have risen, just sending the first pink blush into the sky.
No, nothing was wrong. But something, something was off.
He drew a deep breath into his lungs, and reached up to take the pillow from where it was bunched between his head and the wall, and placed it under his cheek. He felt Justin shift slightly, detecting Brian's movements, a warm hand coming to rest against his thigh where Brian's leg intertwined with the slightly smaller one. Justin’s features evened out as he slipped back into the depths of sleep.
Oh, right. Joan was dead.
He watched the features of his boy, his man, lover, whatever you wanted to call him. His. How the fuck did that happen? Despite all of it. Despite himself. Despite that witch. Despite his life.
Damn, he really was beautiful.
And she would have kept him from this, if she could. Kept him from this man, this moment, in more ways than just condemning him to the pits of hell.
She would always have denied him this, denied him who he was, denied him from ever reaching this moment where he lay, right now. He drew a deep breath, let it out. And now she was dead. So maybe there was a God. He watched Justin sleep, the pale skin against the expansive whiteness of the sheets, the blonde hair and fair features cradled in the soft pillow. So fucking beautiful.
He moved his arm from where it had been curled up against his chest, and placed his hand on the back of Justin’s, sliding his palm lightly and slowly up the forearm, feeling the tickle of the baby-fine hair, up to the elbow, smooth, and damn well should be, his little king was taking after him all right, bathing the ol’ elbows nightly in product straight from Israel, nothing like the Dead Sea salts for exfoliation… Brian’s lips drew upward slightly, laughing at himself. Yeah, he did it, though only where no one could see him, here in this bed, the next best thing to alone, or, if he were being honest with himself, a thing that was better than being alone, being free to indulge himself fully with his thoughts with Justin asleep next to him, knowing he could stay here for a little while anyway. God, he so did not want to get out of this bed. He did not want to deal with this day. Never. Just, damn, stay here. Keep Justin here with him. His.
His hand had lingered around the skin at Justin’s elbow, and now he moved up the biceps, over the back, and he watched the sheet being drawn away as his fingers found the smooth contours of the low back, and rising up a hip, gently down a thigh.
Justin was awake. He didn’t need to look up to know he was being watched now. Brian shifted forward, his head dipping as he pressed his lips against a rib, tracing his tongue against its outline, then moved up to the chest, up for now, Justin was especially ticklish in the morning, closed his lips over a puckering nipple and drew it into his mouth. He could feel Justin’s response in a slow hardening against his stomach, and rolled him onto his back, rolling on top of him.
Justin stared up at him, eyes half open, mouth dropping open. They kissed, slowly and for a long time, tongues gently touching lips and mouths, touching and nothing more.
Brian dropped his thighs around Justin’s hips, and sat up. Justin watched him, his eyes drooping lower as Brian rocked against him, his dick rubbing itself against Justin’s stomach. He reached over to the supplies they kept near the bed, and took out a condom, and lube. Justin watched, waited for Brian to shift his position, to ready him for entry. He was still half asleep; Brian seemed fine with his relative lack of motion, all but the rise below.
But Brian didn’t shift, instead, he closed his eyes, and continued to rock, ripping the condom wrapper open with his teeth. He reached behind himself, and, blind, he rolled it down Justin’s suddenly absolutely full erection. The lube was snapped open, squeezed into Brian’s hand. He reached behind himself, and Justin watched Brian’s shoulder move as he ministered to himself.
Justin felt oddly breathless, for all that his lungs were laboring the air. He heard Brian’s breathing matching his, loud in his ear as his lover bent forward, down to kiss that spot at the base of his neck just over his collarbone that never failed to send an electric shock straight down his body to the corresponding spot between his legs just under his scrotum, and Brian was settling down against him, pushing, a slight shift backward and a sudden gasp in his ear, and Justin was inside, the groan torn out of him as Brian’s hands settled onto his torso, pushing himself back and down, rocking again. Brian picked up Justin’s hand, brought it to the cock thrusting against his stomach, the cum leaking out and providing natural lubricant just when Justin thought he might need some help. The side of his thumb slid beneath the head as Brian’s hand stayed on top of his, keeping Justin’s palm still, only his thumb moving, Brian alone rocking them both to satisfaction.
His climax, when it came, was not the usual intense shot into the stratosphere; it felt as though he were surrounded by the sun, filling every cell and beginning to glow especially warm where Brian’s body met his, and he was lifted gently but firmly upward, his body tensing with the rise of heat within it. “God… Brian…” he gasped as the sensation that had taken his dick did not end, but lifted him further up, a never-ending arc, the steadily intensifying… and then, there, holy shit, suddenly, shooting upward, there, there, holy shit, nothing could feel like *this*… fuck fuck fuck fuck holy shit…
When he became aware of the man on top of him again, Brian was tracing one finger in the liquid covering his stomach. He must have cum while Justin was blind, deaf and dumb to the world, even to the man bringing him to that phenomenal climax. He looked up, into the hazel eyes that seemed more green. Maybe it was the light. Brian smiled down at him. “Good?”
“Bwah?” Brian’s smile widened slightly, and he leaned forward, extracting Justin from him, taking the condom off and dropping it on the floor. He rolled Justin onto his side, facing away, and fit himself into his back.
“My, we’re monosyllabic this morning,” Brian replied, pulling back and wiping away the offending substance with the corner of the sheet. They needed to be washed anyway. He moved back to where his body fit so well against Justin’s, like pieces of a puzzle. Shower, he thought. Not that he was looking for ways to delay facing daylight.
“It’s too early to talk,” Justin replied, enjoying Brian’s hand moving on his arm, his lips touching his shoulder. His voice was husky with the hour.
“Mmm… I don't suppose we can just stay here?”
But as soon as the question was asked, they both knew. Of course they couldn't. And they both knew why they rather would. Justin turned his head. "It's still early,” he said, meeting Brian’s gaze, and was rewarded with a hard, long kiss that was happy to agree
“You want me to go with you?”
Brian glanced across the room, taking in Justin’s hesitation. He shook his head. “No, Claire’s meeting me at the funeral home.”
“I suppose you don’t need more trouble.” Justin picked up his backpack, made sure the supplies he needed for his morning class were in it. Art history, thank goodness, no bulky portfolio to shove awkwardly into the Corvette. He definitely had to get his own car... Well, now was not the time to address that issue. He walked past where Brian was perched on one of the seats at the kitchen counter, dropping his bag on the way so that it was close enough to the door to grab on his way out.
“No,” Brian replied, trailing his hand across Justin’s side as he passed him, “*you* don’t need the trouble.”
Justin opened the refrigerator door and took a water bottle to bring with him to school. He turned back around. “It’s no trouble, Brian. I want to help. Is there anything I can do? Besides keeping Claire off balance. But that’s not *doing* anything, that’s just existing.”
“Unfortunately, Claire will find a way to act out regardless. Too good an opportunity to mount the stage of martyrdom.” He stared off into space for a second, but was aware that Justin was looking at him intently, and snapped his attention back. No need to descend into the morass of melancholy, a bog of self-involvement just waiting to swallow one up, a state his family seemed prone to. He hated that. “Actually, there is something.” Justin raised his eyebrows, waited. Still, Brian hesitated. He wasn’t sure he should ask this, but… “You could stop by Red Cape after you get out of class and tell Michael. He should know. I might not have time to tell him today.” He looked away, but Justin knew the real reason. Brian didn’t want to deal with the outpouring of “I’m so sorry!” that was sure to accompany the announcement, the shock, the expressions of sadness he could not himself feel. But he did want the people in his life to know. Justin wasn’t sure if Brian wanted the support, or if it was Brian’s acknowledgement of a certain form of decorum that went along with these major life (death) events, even though his natural inclination was to simply get this over with, with as little attention as possible. But Justin did understand that despite all their friends knew of Brian, all they knew of his feelings, they didn’t really get it. Shit, Justin didn’t, but he understood that he didn’t have to. We may be connected to each other, Justin thought, but connection happens through vocalization of feelings. Not through having the same ones. And Brian was definitely a different breed of cat altogether. Not a domestic by any means.
“You sure you want me to?”
“I wouldn’t ask you if I didn’t.”
“Of course, I’ll tell him, if that’s what you want. You want me to tell Lindsay, too?”
Brian flipped his cell phone open, fingered one of the buttons. “I forgot about her. I’ll call her later, probably will have to put off that dinner she wanted to have with us.” He flipped the phone shut again, deciding to put off calling Cynthia. She’d probably be calling him anyway, as soon as she got to the office and he wasn’t there, and then didn’t show up after nine. She’d call, all worried, that note of concern. Brian shrugged mentally. He knew it was perverse of him, but some part of him did not despise that tone, hearing it spoken to him in someone else’s voice. He hated that he did not always despise the concern directed at him. He’d never admit it out loud. But he would let Cynthia call him.
“Oh, right. Okay. You sure?”
Brian smiled thinly. “I’m always sure.”
“Riiight…” Justin answered, pushing off the counter to leave the kitchen area. “You ready to go then?” He walked over to his bag, put the water into it, and picked it up, slinging it over his shoulder.
“Ready, huh. I suppose I better be.” He picked his jacket from the chair back and slung it on. “We’re off...”
9:30. So here he was, with Claire, sitting in the funeral director’s office. The man had a placid, appropriately sympathetic expression set over his smooth features. Brian took in his high cheekbones, the lush lips that were consciously thinned, a slight wrinkle to the forehead so that the eyes widened ever so slightly. Not gay. Pretty annoying, in fact, although Brian supposed Claire, sobbing not so quietly in the chair next to him, appreciated the man. He was sure she liked the expression of pity he lavished on her. Shit, if Claire were like this now, what the fuck was the actual funeral going to be like? He could only imagine. He stopped thinking of the future. Just one thing at a time. First, this guy.
“Very good, Mr. Kinney, we’ll arrange the pick up from Allegheny General, and take care of the details here. Two days of viewing, Thursday and Friday, then Saturday transport to St. Anne’s Cathedral for the service at noon and burial after.” Mr. Leslie, the funeral director, had seen who would be in charge of arrangements, and who would, most likely, be paying, as soon as these two walked in. Good thing it was the man, but it usually was, and thank god. He was trained in grieving relatives, he knew, in fact, that he was good with them, and he enjoyed his excellent reputation. But, to be honest, he much preferred the stoic relatives who seemed determined to handle business with as little fuss as possible. It was almost impossible for the over-the-top grievers to make up their minds about even the simplest things. He would never admit this, not even to his wife. Lord knows, she wouldn’t understand his resentment at how mourning people just got his goat sometimes, at least when it came to the nitty gritty of business. Now, Lydia was excellent with huge displays of grief. But then, did she have to make the arrangements, ensure payment? Oh, no!
He made a mental note to have Lydia on hand to deal with the mess sitting next to the gentleman who was making all of the decisions. Lydia thrived on the pain of others. He thought, at times, that must have been why she married him, because of the business he was in. Sometimes, it felt there could have been no other good reason. There sure seemed no reason for her to stay with him, except for money and death. His good ol’ ghoulish Lydia.
He pulled his attention back to the people sitting in front of him as Brian frowned and interjected, “Three days? Is that usual?”
Leslie shrugged. “It’s standard. I was told this is what you preferred.” And more expensive. He, of course, did not mention this.
Claire raised her head, swiped the moisture off her cheeks. “I told him when I called. Momma deserves two days of mourning. Besides, all her friends at the church, they’ll all want to stop by.”
“Joan deserves shit,” Brian shot back. “One day of viewing, Friday. Four days from now. That’ll give her relatives time to get here if they want. Service and burial Saturday.” That way those who couldn’t get out during the week could at least make the funeral. He wished he could be one of them. Shit, he wished he could skip this whole thing. Was it possible…? Nah, Claire would haunt him. Worse, Deb would never let him forget. And then there’d be Lindsay’s reproachful looks. And Michael’s concern… Nope, better to just get through this as quickly as possible. Get it over with, get on with life.
“Why are you making this so difficult?” Claire cried. “You never loved her, I did, I was always there for her…”
“Um,” Mr. Leslie interrupted. “I understand how difficult this must be…”
“It wouldn’t be difficult if Brian, if you would just…”
“What?” Brian answered, shifting in his chair, facing his sister.
“If you could just stop being so bitter. Why do you have to hold onto your anger? Why can’t you just let it go, have some respect for the dead?”
“She never earned my respect in life, she’s not getting it just because she kicked the bucket. And anyway, Claire, just think, the less time this lasts, the less time I can embarrass you with my bitterness, the less time there is that I might actually tell people how our lives actually were spent in that house. And even, how they’ve been spent since.”
Claire’s lips thinned, and she thought about that, remembering their father’s funeral, Brian’s languid retelling of the story of her father’s demand that their mother get an abortion when he was a mere fetus, right in the middle of the gathered friends and family. Hm. “Fine,” she finally agreed.
“How about caskets, Mr. Leslie?” Brian turned back to the funeral director and dismissed his sister, his face as placid as if there had been no argument at all, while Claire began to noisily fall apart again.
Well, this is going to be one hell of a funeral, Leslie thought. But he only said, “We have a wide selection, if you’ll come this way…”
“Hey, boy wonder,” Michael greeted Justin, finishing the sale of a stack of comics to a pimply kid who grinned back at him. The kid picked up his package, and said, “Hey, thanks, Michael, this is an awesome selection!”
“Yeah, well don’t let your mom see the second Rage issue, she’ll have my balls!” Michael called, chuckling as the kid raced out of the store, probably to dive into said issue and whack off. Michael shut the cash drawer with a thud, and grabbed the soda behind him. Taking a swig, he swallowed and said, “You know, I do love giving back to young men who so remind me of me, but even more, I love taking their money. So, what’s up with you?”
Justin looked around the store, noted that the two other people browsing the merchandise were out of hearing range, and said, “Brian’s mother died.”
“Oh…” Michael immediately registered the news, and his face dropped into a classic pose of deep sympathy, his brow wrinkling up, his eyes widening. “How?”
How? That was a good question. Strange, they really hadn’t gotten the details on that, had they? “I think she fell and hit her head. His sister wasn’t too clear, she was too busy sobbing and yelling at Brian.”
“Dyech,” Michael responded, grimacing. “Good ol’ Claire. So she brought the news by? How’s Brian doing?”
Justin shook his head. “He seemed fine when he called me half an hour ago. He and Claire are arranging the details as we speak. Apparently she’s making a fuss over coffins, wants a $15,000 model. On Brian’s tab, of course. He’s being pretty… unemotional about it. Has been since he found out.” Except he fucked himself on me this morning, hard, before I even really woke up enough to truly be there with him. That was definitely not information to be shared. Justin forced the memory back, feeling the skin around his thighs tingle.
“Yeah, he would be, but if you could have seen him the night his dad died…” Michael glanced at Justin, cursing himself. Shit, shit, shit! Why couldn’t he ever keep his mouth shut? Right from the brain to the tongue, it was a curse. As if Justin needed reminder that he hadn’t been welcome into Brian’s life back then. “He ever tell you about that?” Michael asked, trying to let Justin know he hadn’t said what he had to exclude him from memories of the past.
Justin shrugged. “Only general things. He said it was harder than he expected. We both kind of lost our dads around the same time, in different ways, but still. He said he’d told his dad he was gay, and Jack told him he should be the one dying, not Jack. He told me the story, and his face was impassive, but there was something in his eyes… he seemed hurt, but in the non-demonstrative, unconventional way Brian is. You know.”
“Yeah, I know. The night his dad died, he was a fucking mess. Got really, really drunk. Tried to fuck me.” Oh, fuck! There he went again!
Justin’s eyebrows raised. “Really! And…”
Michael shrugged, shook his head, really annoyed at himself. “It was obvious why he was doing it. And it wasn’t because of who I was. He was trying to hurt me, share the Kinney love.”
Justin actually laughed. “Oh, hell, we’ve both been on the receiving end of that. But you said no.”
“I said no. We’re meant to be friends.” He left it at that, deciding to shut his mouth. Kept a lid on anything else he might say. For once. Ben loved his openness, and Michael didn’t have to watch himself around his husband; he could relax and just blab. Brian and Justin kept pieces of themselves closely guarded. Yup, Michael and Brian were definitely meant to be friends. Michael would have killed Brian within a couple of years, hell, months, if he had had to work as hard as he did around either of these guys sometimes; there was an edge to both of them that never allowed him to really relax. ‘Course, that was a lot of the fascination, that dark, mysterious… exhausting bullshit. Michael knew, for him, it would get real old, real quick. “So why the fuck isn’t he telling me this news himself?” The edge of anger in his voice wasn’t real, it was more thrown in there to shift the focus from this discussion, which had gotten away from the point, and fairly out of Michael’s comfort zone. “Is he afraid I’ll see him upset? He doesn’t want any of us to witness that he actually cares?”
“I’m not sure he actually does.”
“She’s his mother.” Michael’s jaw set.
Justin sighed. There was no use in trying to explain this to Michael, whose love for his mother was all-encompassing. Remembering when Michael had been on the run with Hunter, with Deb complaining that she was missing their usual, three-time-per-day talks (at least!), and the look on Brian’s face as he turned to Justin and said, “Explains a lot, doesn’t it?” Yes, it certainly did. No use trying to explain to Michael that not every woman is a natural mother, like Michael’s, like Justin’s. Some mothers eat their young.
So Justin only said, “I don’t think he’s against seeing you, Michael, I just think that he doesn’t want to have to face the looks of initial sympathy. I don’t think he knows how to deal with it. It’s not welcome, and he has enough bullshit to wade through. Plus, if I tell you, you’ll tell everyone, and then everyone will just know and we can proceed from there, without this bump in the road of pretended pain he’s not feeling because that’s what people expect. You know how he gets about expectations he doesn’t think he can live up to. There’s plenty of real pain there, but it isn’t because his mother’s dead.”
Michael eyed the young man. “I see you’ve got your copy of the Kinney handbook back.”
“And this one’s an up-to-date edition. Just as much background material, but some nifty upgrades.”
“Let me guess, you’ve been given the codes for access to emotional trigger points….”
“With their red labels, ‘Sensitive areas! Use only in emergency!’”
They grinned at each other, and Michael shook his head. “What do you think? You think this is good? That she’s dead? You think it’ll be good for him?”
Justin shrugged. “I think the next few days are going to be really rough, and not for the reasons people think. But I think… you know, I hate to say it, but I think Brian’s much better off with his mother out of the picture, permanently.”
“And I get to be the spreader of the news. That’s great, you just figure I’ll blab it across town.” Michael snorted, and straightened up a comic that was leaning slightly in its place on the rack next to the counter.
“Hey, Michael, how many times has my lover tried to fuck you? What is it, as you’ve been sure to tell me, twice now? Any more sensitive topics you want to share with Brian’s life partner about the love of his life?”
Michael had to laugh at himself with that. “Yeah, fine, so I’m not one for holding information back. I guess I’ll start with my mother. She’ll be sure to bake a casserole.”
“I guess Claire’ll appreciate that, for whoever goes to the house after the funeral.” He turned to go.
“Hey, Justin,” Michael called after him. Justin turned. “Take care of him.”
Justin smiled. “I’ll be sure to let you know if we need any help.”
“Thanks,” Michael whispered, as the door swung shut.
Brian practically growled when he entered his Joan’s house without knocking, and saw John sitting in the corner of the sofa, thumbing through a comic. “Hey, where’s your mom?”
John looked up, saw it was Brian, and looked away. “Upstairs,” he mumbled, turning back to the comic.
“Accuse any innocent relatives of molestation lately? Give ol’ grandma a stroke, didja? That how she hit the ol’ noggin’?” Okay, he was being perverse, hell, this house brought out a sickly aggressive streak. But he didn’t expect John to completely freak out. His nephew burst out crying, jumped up, pushed past Brian, and ran out the front door. Christ, the kid was what? 13? Shouldn’t he have better self-control? Did he love ol’ Joan that much? Well, he was young… and his mother was Claire.
“What did you say to him?” Claire called from the top of the stairs. “No, forget it, you know, I don’t want to know. I can’t figure out which dress to bring to the funeral home. And I want to know what you want to keep, we have to go through all this stuff.”
“Oh, hell, you’ve got to be kidding me,” Brian muttered, following his sister up the stairs. “Claire, put her in a potato sack for all I care. You called me away from work for this?”
“It’s our mother, Brian!” Claire returned, her breath hitching, the tears falling. Damnation, it never ended. She turned into her mother’s bedroom, and gestured toward the dresses she’d laid out on the bed, blue, black… red?
“The cranberry one,” he said. He looked at his sister skeptically. His mother NEVER wore red. Joan would hate it. So, definitely. “Definitely, the cranberry.” Better not call it red, Claire might hear how wrong that word sounded. Besides, it was dark red.
“Really? I saw it in the closet, figured it was new, maybe she was saving it for a special occasion. And this would be… would b-b-b…”
Oh, hell. “Claire. It’s fine. The dress is fine. You did good.” He spoke patiently, as if to a child. “Is that what you called me out here for? I do have to a business to run…”
Claire swung on him, moving from grief to rage. Just like that. “You always think of yourself! Mom was right, you are so totally self-absorbed! Like I don’t have a life, like I don’t have better places to be. But there are all these *things* and we have to decide what to do with them!”
“Burn them.” Brian shrugged.
“Brian! Your baby albums? Our family photos?”
“You keep them, Claire. I don’t want anything.”
“You can’t mean that,” his sister scoffed, scooping up the two rejected dresses and hanging them back in the closet. “This is part of your life. You can’t just throw it away.”
Brian groaned. “I do mean it. Unlike you, I can just leave things behind me, especially when they’re these things. And now I’m leaving. If you need someone to help dispose of the estate,” he almost laughed at the satiric wit in his choice of words, but figured Claire would not appreciate his being his own audience, “I’ll get my assistant to hire someone for me.”
“Yeah, you do that, just throw money at the problem, that’ll make it go away.”
Brian turned and practically hopped down the steps, feeling like he was 14 and on his way out to spend a couple of nights at Mikey’s. Getting the fuck out of this hell hole, blessed relief. “It is going away, Claire,” he thought to himself. “Far, far away…”
But first, he’d have to wade through the next three days. One more day of Claire bugging the shit out of him, then the day for viewing, then the funeral. Christ, why couldn’t they just toss her into the ground in a garbage bag? Or even better, burn her, toss the ashes out the car window as he drove away from the funeral and back to his life. But oh, no, Joan actually believed that her body needed to be preserved for the resurrection, when the Lord would raise the dead. “They don’t mean that literally, Mom,” he’d said to her when she expressed horror at his suggestion that they cremate Jack. She looked at him as if he were speaking in tongues, inspired by Satan. “Jesus will raise our bodies from the dead, Brian, where will we be if our bodies aren’t there for Him?”
Too bad Claire was around. He would definitely have burned her. He idly wondered how much it would cost him to get someone to burn the house down.
* * *
“Goddamn it, this is for shit! I did not order this!” Brian threw the board down on the conference table as his art people cringed in their chairs.
“Brian, what do you want changed? I thought this was fairly up to specs,” Ted replied. He had been keeping an eye on the details of this campaign, hoping to learn more of the day-to-day workings of the business that employed him beyond the financials. He found his background as porn site operator and accountant equipped him surprisingly well to get the basic idea of the advertising business. It was all about sex and money, and an obsession with details. He was familiar with all those things.
“Yeah, you thought, I’m sure you did Ted, are you seriously questioning me? That blue is not right, I told you azure, not fucking periwinkle!”
“The second board is azure, Brian,” Gary piped up. “You asked we use both so we could see which worked better.”
“Yeah, so YOU could see which worked better.” Brian grabbed the second board, glared down at it.
“…and then bring you both.”
“What, you couldn’t make the decision for yourself?” Brian glared. “Here’s how it works, you make the decision, and THEN you bring this shit to me.”
“Azure looks right to me,” Ted spoke up, hoping to draw Brian’s wrath from Gary. The kid had just started at Kinnetik that week, and he seemed to be working out pretty well. Ted did not want him quitting, or cowering in a corner, unable to work.
Brian glared at him, then glared back at the boards, then glared some more at Ted. Unfortunately, Ted had just agreed with his own opinion, so he could only growl, “Fine, whatever, if this campaign falls to shit it’s your ass, Ted. Now, about the font…”
* * *